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Grief Counseling

Grief counseling is a form psychotherapy that can be conducted one to one with a counselor or in groups.  Its purpose is to help people cope with the physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and cognitive responses to loss. These experiences can be brought on by a loved person's death, but may more broadly be understood as shaped by any significant life-altering loss (i.e., divorce, home foreclosure, job loss, pandemic).


Elisabeth Kübler-Ross first introduced this concept in her 1969 book, "On Death and Dying."  The book was to help people coping with their own death.  The stages include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  This model was later transformed for people coping from grief.  Kübler-Ross claimed these steps do not necessarily come in the order noted above, nor are all steps experienced by every person.  In later years, David Kessler added a sixth stage was added, meaning.


These stages are part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with what we have lost.  They are the tools to help us frame and identify what is it we may be feeling.  The hope is that with these stages will come the knowledge of grief process, making one better equipped to cope with life and loss.  Keep in mind that your grief is as unique as you are.


Grief counseling is essential when a person is feeling overwhelmed by their loss and when their normal coping processes are disabled or shut down.  In grief counseling expression of emotion in facilitated regarding the thoughts about the loss.  Many people feel sad, anxious, angry, lonely, guilty, relieved, isolated, confused, or numb.  Often people feel disorganized, tired, have trouble concentrating, sleep poorly and have vivid dreams, and they may experience the change in appetite.  These too are addressed in counseling.


Grief counselors know that one can expect a wide range of emotion and behavior associated with grief.  Some counselors believe that in all places and cultures, the grieving person benefits from the support of others.  Additionally, grief counselors believe that where such support is lacking, counseling may provide an avenue for healthy resolution.  Grief counselors also believe that there is a benefit for counseling if the process of grieving is interrupted, for example, by the one who is grieving having to simultaneously deal with practical issues of survival or by their having to be the strong one who is striving to hold their family together.

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Author:
Retta Radin LMHC

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